Certain studies have revealed a diet high in processed foods can cause ailments such as heart disease, obesity, and other chronic diseases. In contrast, other research suggests processed foods can make up part of a healthy diet, but only if consumed in moderation.
In a quest to stay healthy, more and more of us are researching the different foods available. From minimally processed foods to highly processed foods, learning about the potential health effects of each is a surefire way to stay in shape.
So, what counts as processed food? Read on to find out…
What Are Processed Foods?
Processed foods are foods that have been modified from their original state. They range from minimally processed foods, comprising fresh fruits and vegetables, to highly processed foods, including cookies and chips.
Methods of modification include canning, cooking, and freezing. Certain processed foods boast the addition of unwanted additives.
When it comes to knowing what counts as processed food? It’s essential to read the label. If there are words on there, you don’t understand, the product in question is likely full of additives.
The Spectrum Of Processed Foods
The spectrum of processed foods can be divided into three key categories: minimally processed, moderately processed, and highly processed foods.
- Minimally Processed Foods
These foods are a better option for those looking to stick to a healthy diet as they boast foods that have only been slightly altered from their original state. They contain zero additives but may be canned or frozen and often include the likes of lean meats, whole grains, and fresh fruit and vegetables.
- Moderately Processed Foods
To improve their taste or make them more convenient, these foods have been processed using additives such as sugar, salt, or preservatives, which makes them last longer. Some examples of moderately processed foods comprise frozen dinners, canned soups, and bread.
- Highly Processed Foods
Highly processed foods have undergone severe modifications, perhaps the biggest culprit of them all. These changes alter texture, taste, color, and shelf life. These foods are deemed unhealthy as they are made up of a lot of sugars, fats, and salt. Examples include cookies, candy, chips, and soda.
Why Are Processed Foods Unhealthy?
Although a matter of debate, certain studies reveal that eating processed foods regularly can harm your health. Highly processed foods should only ever be eaten in moderation as they are linked to an increased risk of heart disease, obesity, and a variety of other chronic diseases.
Processed Foods And Weight Gain
Compared to those that entertain a minimally processed diet, people who enjoy processed foods regularly are likely to suffer from weight gain. Why? Ultra-processed foods contain hidden calories, added sugars, sodium, and saturated and trans fats.
Other ultra-processed foods contain high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, emulsifiers, and flavoring agents. Although these foods are often more convenient and boast a greater shelf life than fresh, wholesome foods, they can cause health problems, particularly weight gain.
What Should Buyers Consider When Buying Processed Foods?
According to data and advice from the Harvard T.H. Chan’s School of Public Health, you should consider the food’s nutritional content when buying processed foods.
This can be used to evaluate the long-term health impacts of the food. It’s important to note that ultra-processed food boasts a disproportionately high ratio of calories to nutrients, generally considered unhealthy.
Having this knowledge to hand will help consumers to pick foods that are beneficial to their bodies, even if it means replacing certain foods they’d normally buy with less-processed alternatives.
Today, it can be hard always to eat healthily. This is often down to hectic schedules, busy lifestyles, location, and cost. If you’re working all hours, fast food is an easy option that doesn’t break the bank. Organic whole foods, on the other hand, can be pricier, are often only found in specialist stores, and tend to take some time to prepare.
`Studies show that ultra-processed foods currently makeup nearly 60% of the average adult eats and an astonishing 70% of what kids eat.
The key to avoiding this is being organized. Whether this means prepping your food for the week on a Sunday evening or signing up for a food delivery service, both are great options.
Read The Labels
When we take a closer look at the ingredients listed on certain go-to foods today, a lot of them won’t make sense to us. Bread, for example, one staple that should only need to contain three ingredients, now boasts a whole host of nasties, such as sorbitan tristearate and carrageenan, which help to thicken, improve texture, emulsify and preserve the flavor of food, as well as prolong its shelf life.
Knowing what ingredients and additives to avoid can help you to ensure you’re only putting goodness into your body. Whole foods are jam-packed with nutrients, including body-beneficial minerals, vitamins, and fiber. All these nutrients benefit your bodies and brains, reducing the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and strokes.
We live in a world teeming with ultra-processed foods – edible products crafted from man-made ingredients that have been extracted from foods, processed, and then reconstructed to create shelf-stable, tasty, and convenient meals.
According to Allison Sylvetsky, an associate professor at George Washington Milken Institute School of Public Health, where she works for the Department of Exercise and Nutrition, “These are foods that are industrial creations,” Unfortunately, we are eating too many of them.
With this in mind, it’s essential to encourage a diet of mostly whole foods and a few highly processed foods. Whole foods give our bodies and brains the nutrients we require, while processed foods can harm our health, causing all sorts of unwanted ailments.